PLUTARCH. c.46--c.125 Considered by many the most important Greek writer of the early Roman period, Plutarch was a member of a well-to-do Greek family, a chief magistrate, a priest at Delphi, and an exceptionally well-read individual. His philosophical views were based on those of Plato (see Vol. 4) and, although a Greek, he esteemed the achievements and attributes of the Romans. By the time Plutarch's works were published for the first time in the eleventh century, some had already been lost. He wrote innumerable essays on philosophical, historical, political, religious, and literary subjects, 78 of which survive today and are known collectively as the "Moralia." He is known primarily, however, for his Parallel Lives of Greeks and Romans, which consists of 50 biographies---23 of prominent Greeks, 23 of Roman leaders, and 4 separate lives---accompanied at intervals by short comparative essays. Although historical information is included in the work, Plutarch wrote it originally to inspire emulation in youth, so the emphasis is on character, moral choice, and anecdote. Sir Thomas North's 1579 translation into English of Parallel Lives became an important source for William Shakespeare which he used for three plays, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus.
Arthur Hugh Clough was born on the first day of 1819 to James and Ann Clough in Liverpool, England. A poet who studied at Rugby and Oxford, Clough had radical political and religious beliefs. After going to France to support the revolution of 1848, Clough traveled to the United States hoping to obtain a position at Harvard. When that did not work out, Clough returned home and married Blanch Smith. Soon after, Clough spent much of his time helping his wife's cousin, Florence Nightingale, lobby for reform in hospitals and in the nursing profession. Throughout the 1850s, Clough worked on a translation of Plutarch's Lives and a large poem, Mari Magno. Clough died in Florence, Italy, on November 13, 1861, at the age of 42.
James Atlas is the founding editor of the Lipper/Viking Penguin Lives Series. A longtime contributor to The New Yorker, he was an editor at The New York Times Magazine for many years. His work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, The Atlantic Monthly, Partisan Review, and many other journals. He is the author of Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet, which was nominated for a National Book Award.